The New Orleans Pelicans‘ wait ended on Wednesday night as rookie big man Zion Williamson made his official NBA debut against the San Antonio Spurs. Although the Pelicans fell short, there is plenty of reason for optimism around Williamson with the performance he had in limited action on the floor. That saw him put forth an incredible effort that saw him set an impressive record in his first game.
Zion Williamson Wait is Over
Williamson spent the last couple of months in a thorough recovery process that saw him move past the initial six-to-eight week timetable from his knee surgery. It may have been a tedious stretch for him, but the Pelicans have continued to operate mindfully with the long-term approach of his career in complete focus.
That led to him being able to return this season weeks ahead of the All-Star break, which gives him enough time to get his legs underneath him for the next couple of weeks before then. New Orleans has put forth a strict plan that was evident with his minute workload in his first game that saw him play in spurts on the floor.
Despite these restrictions in his debut, it didn’t hamper Williamson from putting forth a tremendous first game that led to him putting himself in the NBA record books.
Zion Williamson’s historic debut
In his first game back on the floor, Williamson proved to be well worth the wait as he excelled in his brief time on the floor against the Spurs.
That saw him put forth the bulk of his production in the fourth quarter, which fueled his strong outing with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds and assists in 18 minutes played. Williamson scored all 17 of his points in the final quarter of regulation in consecutive fashion that included him becoming the first player in their debut to go 4-for-4 from distance in their first game.
His stellar performance was also the most points scored in under 20 minutes played in a player’s first game in the shot-clock era dating back to the 1954-55 season. Williamson’s output is also the highest-scoring total by any Pelicans player in their rookie debut. His 17 points in the fourth quarter were also tied for the most points in a quarter in an NBA debut over the last 20 years.
He has quickly shown that he can be a significant impact player from the get-go, which is why he has tremendous hype around him entering the league. Performances like this won’t come every night, but he can fill up the box score while being a huge factor on the floor.
Pelicans’ 2019-20 season outlook
Beyond Williamson finally making his return, the loss to the Spurs does take a bit of a ding on their playoff push.
San Antonio moved into the eighth spot, only a half-game ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies. Meanwhile, New Orleans has fallen to four games behind the Spurs for that final playoff position. There is still plenty of basketball left to be played this season, but it will continue to be an uphill battle for the Pelicans to get into playoff contention.
New Orleans may hold a mostly youthful roster, but they still have strong aspirations to contend for the playoffs. That will eventually see Williamson play a more significant role in the puzzle alongside Brandon Ingram, who is putting forth a career-best campaign. The hope is that both Ingram and Williamson can learn how to play off each other effectively as they are viewed as the two centerpieces of the franchise.
Regardless of what unfolds over the next couple of months, the Pelicans have a bright future ahead with their young core group that now features Williamson.